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Attentive swampians will remember an infamous essay the flight 93 election that appeared shortly before the 2016 election. the piece, under the pen-name publius decius mus, was based on the fourth hijacked 9/11 plane that passengers brought down before it could be crashed into one or other us branch of government.

The real author, michael anton, has just given us another glimpse for what passes as thought leadership on the trumpian right. in his original essay, anton argued that hillary clinton was the hijacker and voters for donald trump would be the heroic passengers. the analogy failed when you consider that hijackers, crew and passengers alike all died in a pennsylvania field. at any rate, antons case was that clintons globalist elites would complete americas destruction withthe ceaseless importation of third world foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more democratic, less republican, less republican, and less traditionally american with every cycle.

Antons essay is worth reading, or rereading, if you can bear it, as an example of how thuggishly juvenile americas intellectual right has become. the piece is basically a plea for xenophobia beneath a veneer of sophomoric banter. we remember it for the headline. but it is celebrated in trumpian circles as the intellectual case for his presidency.

Now anton is at it again with a piece on the coming coup? in the american mind, which has rapidly become conventional wisdom in the pro-trump media, including fox, breitbart, the washington examiner, the federalist and elsewhere. antons basic thesis is that democrats are planning to rob trump of his re-election victory on november 3 by planning street battles and the production of enough harvested ballots lawfully or not to tip close states, or else dispute the results in close states and insist, no matter what the tally says, that biden won them.

Antons source for this is a series of election war games carried out by the transition integrity project, a non-partisan group led by rosa brooks of georgetown law and nils gilman of the berggruen institute, which anton repeatedly describes as a conspiracy. over the summer a story was deliberately leaked to the press of a meeting at which 100 democratic grandees, anti-trump former republicans and other ruling class apparatchiks got together (on george soross dime) to game out various outcomes of the 2020 election, anton writes.

As it happens the war games werent leaked to the press. i was one of the people playing the media in the tip exercise and i sought permission to write about what i observed, which i did here in what was the first piece on the subject. since then plenty of others, including the atlantics david frum and ben smith from the new york times, have also written about it. the games included no ruling class apparatchiks. everyone, democrat or republican, lawyer and politico, was out of office.

Soross foundation is one of many modest donors to tips parent organisation, protect democracy. nor was it a conspiracy. a summary of the games is published here. but anton has a way round that too: the first rule of conspiracy is, you do not talk about the conspiracy...so why are the democrats publicly talking about the conspiracy? because they know that, for it to succeed, itmust not look like a conspiracy. genius! antons worldview is unfalsifiable. tips election exercise must be a conspiracy because it doesnt remotely look like one.

There, in a nutshell, is the intellectual condition of americas right. as it happens the tip games were full of non-trump conservatives who still call themselves republican, all of whom are too embarrassed to be associated with a movement in which the likes of anton are part of its brains trust. they hope, perhaps quixotically, that the republican party will return to respectable conservatism after trumps defeat. needless to say, anton hopelessly misrepresents the point of the games and what happened. i wont go into my latest prognosis for the november election. trumps refusal this week to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power should tell us enough about his frame of mind. do not forget, however, that the ballast for trumps theories comes from people such as anton.

One final point; in late 2017 i attended a weekend retreat hosted by a think-tank in which anton was also a participant. at the time he was a spokesman for trumps national security council. he was asked why trump had withdrawn the us from the trans-pacific partnership. his reply was that the us did not want to belong to a trade group that included china. when we pointed out that china did not belong to the tpp, he looked surprised. we pressed him to specify which provisions within the tpp trump disliked. i will never forget antons reply. he hadnt read it, he admitted. and nor had trump.

Rana, do you think we get the thought leadership we deserve? and if so, what did we do to deserve this?

Ed, you described just what we did to deserve this, in one of my favourite columns of all time. coastal elites, as im sure anton would call us, dont deserve a coup. but our insistence on having both capital gains and moral certainty, as you so deftly put it, certainly helped get us trump.

But as you and i have discussed so often, biden isnt hillary. i spent the last few days on a road trip driving my daughter from new york city to chicago to drop her off at college. the bulk of it was spent driving through pennsylvania, which is a very long state. i was impressed with the democratic signage i saw, which featured pictures of older, respectable looking white men the sort of republicans you speak of with just a few sentences of promo copy along the lines of im a business owner, im a conservative, im for biden or pictures of attractive young white women saying im a christian, im a mom, im for biden. i thought it was a good approach just jump over trump, dont give him any oxygen at all and appeal to peoples fundamental decency. naive? perhaps. but coming from the heartland, i cling to the hope that after four years of this bs, people will know a conman when they see one.

Of course, much depends on how that first debate goes. i look forward to live blogging it with you and peter. my hope is that biden will take mary trumps advice about how to put her uncle off his footing: just call him donald.